Shadow treasurer Joe Hockey has mounted a passionate defence of Tony Abbott’s paid parental leave scheme and branded dissident Liberal backbencher Alex Hawke a lone voice in the Coalition in wanting the commitment scrapped.
Mr Hockey said the policy would boost participation and deliver a “massive benefit” to small business.
Mr Hawke, the Liberal MP for Mitchell in north west Sydney, who is of Greek background, insists he is not the only Coalition MP who is concerned about the policy, which offers new mothers 26 weeks of leave on full pay, up to a maximum wage of $150,000 a year, to be funded by a 1.5 per cent levy on the country’s 3200 biggest companies.
This levy was to have been fully offset by a 1.5 per cent cut in company tax, but it has since been replaced with the promise of a ‘modest’ company tax cut. Abbott’s leave scheme compares with Labor’s taxpayer-funded scheme offering 18 weeks parental leave at the minimum wage.
“Certainly within the Coalition there is widespread concern that in this climate it is unaffordable as a policy,” Mr Hawke said. “I think that’s been the case for some time.”
Insisting it would not be an issue for the Coalition to ditch its scheme ahead of the September election – despite Mr Abbott referring to it as a ‘signature’ policy – Mr Hawke said: “I think this isn’t that popular with the electorate. And I tend to find people are pretty realistic that we can’t afford big new taxes and levies at the moment.”
But Mr Hockey dismissed Mr Hawke’s critique in a doorstop interview after his address to the IPA, saying it was not shared by his colleagues.